The standards of television tend to be extra strict on the world of animation, especially with kids’ cartoons.
Cartoons have had a long history of banned episodes that continues to this day, when the envelope is constantly being pushed further and further. There are lots of reasons that a cartoon episode can get banned; sometimes it has to do with the different censorship standards of a country, sometimes an event retroactively makes it offensive, and sometimes the episode is just plain messed up!
In the past, these unaired or banned episodes would be forgotten about. No one would even know they were gone, save for some passing rumors. But in the modern age of the internet, discussions are had, secrets come out, and banned episodes resurface into the public eye, be it through third-party streaming sites or highly detailed wiki pages.
So which cartoons made banned episodes? Here are 15 Cartoon Episodes That Were Too Controversial To Air.
15. DEXTER’S LAB – “RUDE REMOVAL”
Dexter’s Lab is widely revered as one of Cartoon Networks greatest original series, often credited with ushering in a new age of animation for the Turner-owned network. The series was created by Genndy Tartakovsky, who would later go on to create shows like Samurai Jack and Sym-Bionic Titan.
As beloved as the show was by both fans and Cartoon Network, there was one episode that was never aired.
The segment, titled “Rude Removal”, centered around Dexter and Dee Dee having their personalities split into separate pairs, a rude one and a polite one.
The rude pair was in fact too rude for Cartoon Network, since the episode never aired on television due to the heavy use of bleeped profanity. On the episode’s banning, Tartakovsky said “standards didn’t like it.”
14. TINY TOONS – “ELEPHANT ISSUES”
Tiny Toons Adventures is somewhat infamous for a rather dark episode entitled “Elephant Issues”. The title is a play on the term “relevant issues” and the episode’s segments focus on different life lessons in a sort of PSA-styled manner.
The third segment “One Beer”, is infamous for its dark depiction of addiction, and for getting the entire episode banned from future airings.
In the segment, Buster, Hamton and Plucky decide to drink a beer in Buster’s fridge, and get drunk immediately from a single sip. The episode shows the dangers of alcohol as the trio turn away their friends, steal a police car and go on a joyride, driving off a cliff to their “deaths.”
13. POKéMON – “ELECTRIC SOLDIER PORYGON”
When anime is brought over to America, there tends to be a lot of censoring, especially with shows aimed at younger audiences. One of the most infamous examples is an episode of Pokémon called “Electric Soldier Porygon,” which was, surprisingly, not banned for its risqué content.
When it originally aired in Japan, 685 viewers were hospitalized after experiencing seizures from a series of red and blue flashes featured in the episode.
The incident, which was referred to as “Pokémon Shock” by the Japanese press, got the episode banned from further broadcasts and it was not allowed to air in other parts of the world.
12. BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD – “THE MASK OF MATCHES MALONE!”
The “Birds of Prey” song from Batman: The Brave and the Bold is one of the dirtiest, and catchiest, songs ever to be featured in a kids cartoon. As popular as the song is, it managed to get the episode “The Mask of Matches Malone!” banned from release in America. For those who haven’t seen the episode, it focuses on the Birds of Prey – Huntress, Catwoman, and Black Canary – as they pursue Two-Face and run into an amnesiac Batman who is stuck in his false Matches Malone persona.
If that didn’t sound crazy enough, it gets weirder. When the Birds of Prey walk right into Matches’ club, they have to sing their way out. Their song, which is supposedly improvised, shows all the ways the Birds of Prey are better than various male superheroes, and it is rife with sexual innuendo.
11. SAILOR MOON – NEPTUNE AND URANUS
Sailor Moon was one of many anime that was heavily edited for American audiences. One of the aspects that was cut from the American release of the show was the lesbian relationship between Sailors Neptune and Uranus. In the American dubs, Neptune and Uranus were depicted as cousins, which is what made their longing gazes and tender moments seem so creepy.
Due to this “rewrite,” episodes that featured intimate scenes between Neptune and Uranus were essentially banned from American release. Any episodes that focused on their relationship were never shown in America with the “cousin” angle being pushed as hard as possible, since America deemed a gay relationship inappropriate for a children’s show.
10. TMNT (2003) – “INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE”
The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series was known for adapting a lot more from the original comics than its predecessor. The Turtles’ personalities were much closer to the source material and the stories were much more series. As a result, the show took a much darker tone than the 1987 series – so much so that an episode was never aired in the US.
The episode in question was called “Insane in the Membrane” and was about Baxter Stockman. Throughout the series, Shredder had been slowly chopping off pieces of Stockman’s body whenever he had failed him (already dark on its own) until he was just a brain in a jar.
Cloning himself a new body, Stockman plans to take his revenge, but his body starts deteriorating at an alarming rate. The graphic imagery of a decomposing body was too much for the Fox censors, and a change in staff caused the formerly approved episode to be banned from airing.
9. REN AND STIMPY – “MAN’S BEST FRIEND”
The Ren & Stimpy Show was infamous for how disgusting, raunchy and mature it could get. The show’s constant pushing of the envelope is what led to creator John Kricfalusi and his production crew to be booted from the show entirely and Nickelodeon choosing to gear the show more towards children in later seasons. Though Kricfalusi had done some crazy stuff on the show before, it was one particular episode that got him fired: “Man’s Best Friend”.
The episode never actually aired in the show’s original run, but is infamous for its various tobacco references and a horrifying sequence in which Ren beats a man nearly to death with an oar. The violent scene was too much for Nickelodeon and the episode was forbidden from ever airing.
8. ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE – “HEFF IN A HANDBASKET”
Rocko’s Modern Life was one of those shows that was all over the place, full of adult jokes and sometimes NSFW moments that were hidden under the “kids cartoon” surface of the show.
Creator Joe Murray often discusses how surprised he was at the things the show got away with, but not everything slipped passed the censors. The episode “Heff in a Handbasket” was pulled from airing after its initial following controversy from the satanic imagery.
Though “Heck” and the concept of a soul being tortured by devils for all eternity had been shown in the previous episode “To Heck and Back”, the second episode featuring the demon Peaches was too much for Nickelodeon.
7. POWERPUFF GIRLS – “SEE ME, FEEL ME, GNOMEY”
Anyone else remember the rock opera episode of Powerpuff Girls that featured a magical gnome who brought peace to Townsville? No? Well that’s because it never aired during the show’s original run.
The episode was a tribute/homage to rock operas like Hair, Godspell, and especially Tommy, which the episode is named after. Called “See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey”, the episode was about the girls stumbling across a magical gnome who promised to bring peace to Townsville if the girls give up their powers.
There’s nothing particularly raunchy or mature about the episode — except, perhaps, the references to Rock Operas that kids wouldn’t get — and the reason it was banned was kind of silly.
Series creator Craig McCracken said that destroyed buildings in the background featured metal beams that the network thought looked too much like crosses. This, paired with a hippie character who unintentionally resembled Jesus, are what led to the episode to be pulled from airing.
6. POKéMON – “BEAUTY AND THE BEACH”
As we mentioned before, when anime is brought over from Japan, some stuff has to get cut to fit with American network standards. Pokémon has had more than its fair share of censorship in America, and in the case of the episode “Beauty and the Beach”, it might have been for the better. The episode was about a beauty contest at the beach that all the female characters entered – including a disguised James.
James was depicted wearing a suit with fake, inflatable breasts which he used to taunt Misty, saying “Maybe, one day when you’re older, you’ll have a chest like this!” Later, James inflated the breasts to double their size.
5. GARGOYLES – “DEADLY FORCE”
Handling violent subject matters in cartoons can be a slippery slope, and sometimes good intentions lead to banned episodes. Disney’s Gargoyles attempted to discuss gun safety by building an episode around the dangers of firearms.
“Deadly Force” centered on Broadway accidentally shooting Elisa with her own gun and hospitalizing her. Frustrated by his own mistake, Broadway starts beating up any criminal he can find to take out his guilt and aggression.
The episode was pulled for two reasons; the subject of gun control was a bit too sensitive for the network and the scene where Elisa is shot was far too graphic. After being shot, Elisa was shown lying on the ground as blood pooled from her abdomen. It’s pretty surprising such a dark premise got approved in the first place.
4. DARIA – MULTIPLE EPISODES
MTV’s Daria was one of the few cartoons aimed at older audiences that focused on drama as much as comedy. Since it was meant for young adults, MTV gave the go ahead for a lot of adult subject matter and the show tackled the issues in intelligent, mature ways. However, when Daria went into reruns on The N, some heavy editing and cuts were made. Things that were given the okay by MTV were now deemed inappropriate.
Most of the episodes were banned were due to sexual content, be it implied or direct. For example, the episode “College Bored” was cut because Quinn, a minor, was showing being hit on by college-age kids. Then there’s “I Don’t”, in which Quinn flirts with a priest and two male characters are mistaken for a gay couple. Further, episodes that referenced drugs or featured heavily implied violence were not aired in The N reruns.
3. THE MASK – “FLIGHT AS A FEATHER”
One of history’s forgotten, or at the very least looked over, cartoons is the animated spinoff of The Mask. The show was just as nuts as the comic and movie it derived from, featuring insane plots and over-the-top violent cartoon humor. One of these plots went just a bit too far for FOX Family and was skipped over due to its content.
The episode in questions was called “Flight as a Feather”, and featured a scene in which the mayor’s stripper ex-girlfriend straps dynamite to her naked body and threatens to kill herself and the mayor. FOX Family wasn’t the only network to ban this episode, as future showings on CBS took things even further, banning the entire second season from airing.
2. ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE – “LEAP FROGS”
Rocky’s Modern Life got away with a lot, but “Heff in a Handbasket” wasn’t the only episode that managed to get pulled from airing. Another episode titled “Leap Frogs,” was banned from airing after Nickelodeon realized how risqué the content was. “Leap Frogs” focus was on Bev Bighead in a rather sexual situation, an obvious reason for its banning.
After feeling like her husband Ed was ignoring her, Bev was feeling unloved. The episode showed her heavily flirting with Rocko to the point of trying to seduce him. Bev made her moves on Rocko while Ed was at work, going so far as to kiss him just as Ed arrived home. A
1. STAR VS. THE FOE – “JUST FRIENDS”
Kids’ cartoons these days are working harder and harder to push the envelope for what is and isn’t “appropriate” for children’s television. Steven Universe has done this with its depiction of LGBT characters and has received more than its fair share of banning outside of the US.
Another show that pushes for more on-screen representation is Disney XD’s Star Vs. The Forces of Evil. However, this forward-thinking approach has managed to get an episode pulled both from airing and from streaming on their website.
The episode “Just Friends” is about Star, Marco and his girlfriend Jackie going to a concert for the boy band, Love Sentence. During one of the songs, some of the couples in the audience start to kiss, including Marco and Jackie. Amongst all the kissing are several same-sex couples, which is presumably the reason Disney pulled the episode. It even garnered heavy editing when being released in other countries.
Have you seen any of these controversial and banned cartoon episodes? Let us know in the comments!
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